Nathula Pass is a high altitude mountain pass situated on the Indo-Chinese border in North-Eastern Himalayas in Sikkim. Nestled at an altitude of 14,140 feet above the sea level, Nathula Pass connects Sikkim to China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. It is among the highest mountain passes accessible by tourists via motorable road. This mighty mountain pass is located on the Old Silk route and is one of the oldest trading border posts connecting Tibet and India. Marked by the gates of both countries (India and China) and military bunkers on both sides, it is one of the must-see tourist attractions in Sikkim.
It is one of the three open gate trading border posts and has played an important role in the Sino-India trade role. Nathula Pass also shortened the distance between prominent Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
Note: Only Indian Nationals are allowed to visit Nathula Pass due to its proximity to the China border.
Places to visit in Nathula Pass
A great place to visit in North East India especially Sikkim, Nathula Pass in Gangtok is one of the most beautiful mountain passes in the world. The winding path to this scenic mountain pass from Gangtok is amazing and is blessed with a spectacular view of mountain scenery. Some of the popular attractions in Nathula Pass are:
- Tsomgo Lake – Perched at an altitude of 12,310 feet above the sea level, Tsomgo Lake is a high altitude glacier lake. It is also known as Changu Lake and remains frozen during the winter season. The mesmerizing scenic allure along with the legendary significance makes it a famous tourist destination near Nathula Pass.
- Baba Mandir – Situated at an altitude of 13,123 feet on Nathula – Jelepla road, Baba Mandir is a shrine that was built to commemorate the Indian soldier Harbhajan Singh. It is not an ordinary temple, however, it has a touching story associated with it.
- War Memorial and Exhibition Centre: Indian Army built this war memorial to honor the brave soldiers who laid their lives defending the country.
- Menmecho Lake: A 4 km idyllic trek from Baba Mandir takes to Menmecho Lake, which is fed by a snow-covered mountain surrounded by Jelepla Pass. It is the source of the River Rangpo Chu, a tributary of the Teesta River.
- Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary: Adjoining Tsomgo Lake and Rong Chu Valley, Kyongnosla Sanctuary is rich in flora and fauna. It is also home to endangered and rare ground orchids and rhododendrons.
Best time to visit Nathula Pass
The best time to visit Nathula Pass is from May to October. During summers, the temperature at Nathula Pass is around 10⁰ C which is favorable for a sightseeing tour. In the winter season, the region becomes inaccessible due to heavy snowfall and the temperature falls to almost -25⁰ C.
The Nathula Pass remains closed for tourists on Mondays and Tuesdays. However, on other days of the week, it closes by 1:30 PM.
Accommodation in Nathula Pass
As it is a border post, the army occupies the area. There is no accommodation option at Nathula Pass for tourists. If by any chance you are stranded at the place, then the Indian Army accommodates you for one night.
Things to do in Nathula Pass
There is a plethora of things to do in and around Nathula Pass. Here are some of the best things to do:
- Yak ride at Tsomgo Lake
- Climb the slope and stairs to the Indo-Chinese border.
- Trek to Menmecho Lake
- Swim at Mandakini Waterfall or just click photographs.
- Seek blessings at Baba Mandir and listen to the legendary story of Baba Harbhajan Singh.
- Visit War Memorial to get a glimpse of the glory and courage of Indian soldiers.
- Spot rare species of flora and fauna in Zuluk Wildlife Sanctuary.
How to reach Nathula Pass
Nathula Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass in Sikkim, sharing borders with China. The closest well-connected town is in Gangtok, almost 54 km away. Here is the detailed information about how to reach Nathula Pass:
The closest airport from Gangtok is Bagdogra Airport, at a distance of 178 km. It is well-connected from the major cities of the country including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Chennai from various airlines. From Gangtok, tourists can hire a cab or board a shared jeep for Nathula Pass.
The nearest railhead from Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri, which is situated at 98 km. Tourists can hire a private/ shared cab or board a bus for Gangtok from the railway station. And from Gangtok, sturdy SUVs and vehicles like Innova, Bolero, and Scorpio, etc. ply regularly on the treacherous roads of Nathula Pass.
Nathula Pass is well-connected from Gangtok by road network. One can easily get a shared or private taxi to reach Nathula Pass.
Here are a few tips you should keep in mind while traveling to Nathula Pass:
- Nathula Pass remains closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. So plan accordingly.
- It is mandatory to carry a permit to visit Nathula Pass. One has to obtain the Protected Area Permit (PAP) issued by Tourism and Civil Aviation at Gangtok, or through registered travel agencies.
- Carry heavy woolens as the region experiences cold throughout the year.
- Drink enough water and take proper rest as it is important to get your body acclimatize at such a high altitude to avoid Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS).
- Carry first-aid boxes and important medicines including fever, vomiting, cold, and cough.
Ques: How do I get a permit for Nathula Pass?
Ans: Nathula Pass is a Himalayan mountain pass in the East Sikkim district connecting the Indian state of Sikkim with China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Indian nationals need a valid permit to visit the Nathula Pass. You can obtain a permit from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department or through a registered travel agency. A photo ID proof and two passport size photographs are required for the permit. You can visit Nathula pass only by a vehicle provided by such a registered tour operator.